Chapter: Climate Change and Pastoral Flexibility (2010)

Climate change will likely affect the practice of pastoralism in the Sámi areas of Scandinavia severely. Winter temperatures may increase significantly, while changes in precipitation and wind will affect snow patterns. Traditional Sámi pastoralism is well adapted to handling rapid change in extreme and often unpredictable environments, and past responses to climatic variability may offer clues as to how long-term and permanent climate change can be successfully managed. The paper argues that the key to successful management lies in maximizing herder flexibility in responding to changing conditions. Between the four nation- states that currently include Sámi pastoralism within their territories – Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – there is a surprising variety in systems of governance. Due to limitations of space, our discussion here focuses specifically on the Norwegian case. We propose that in the face of climate change, timely adjustments to national governance structures, aimed specifically at maintaining and re-establishing conditions for pastoral flexibility, will be key to ensuring the survival of Sámi reindeer herding – both as culture and as economic practice.

Reinert, H, S Mathiesen and E Reinert. 2010. Climate Change and Pastoral Flexibility. In Winther G, ed. The Political Economy of Northern Regional Development. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers